Subject Material

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly

Published: 11.02.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017

This play, with its strong emphasis on the morality, conscience and social responsibility of each of us, appeals as strongly to the theatre-goers of today as it did to audiences when it was first staged about 60 years ago. Although set in early 20th century England, this morality parable is timeless and could have taken place anywhere at any time. It deals with man as a social animal and our obligations to each other, and consequently it raises the kind of questions that everyone in some way has to face and tackle at some stage in life.

A wealthy family are interrupted in their peace and happiness while celebrating their daughter's engagement by the unexpected arrival of a police inspector. His interruption drastically changes the situation in the family and affects the conscience of all those present at the family gathering. Learning about the death of a young woman they are one by one shown to be responsible for her suicide. By their behaviour and without realising it each of them has contributed to the tragic end to the young woman's life.

The writer of the play, J.B. Priestley (1894-1984), was a man of social convictions who considered himself to be a spokesman for the common sense of the common man. A prolific and versatile writer, J.B. Priestley was highly regarded for his novels, plays, essays, travel books and journalism. The novel The Good Companions (1929) and the play An Inspector Calls (1947) mark the highlights of a long and distinguished literary career. His output includes some 70 books of essays, literary criticism, fiction, travel and autobiography, and over 40 plays.

Characters:An Inspector Calls.ilustration.An Inspector Calls  

Arthur Birling
Sybil Birling, his wife
Sheila Birling, his daughter
Eric Birling, his son
Gerald Croft
Inspector Goole

The play is set in the diningroom of the Birling's house in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands. It is an evening in spring 1912.


An Inspector Calls - audio